During my college days, I spent my summers as an assistant at a camp for junior high school students. It was work I looked forward to every year because it was a pleasure. Of my camp memories, there is one summer that stands out from the rest.
It was the first day of camp. About an hour after everyone had arrived, I noticed a small boy sitting alone under a tree. He was thin, pale and obviously uneasy. Only fifty feet away, all the other campers were playing, joking and enjoying getting to know each other, but he seemed to want to be anywhere other than where he was. He had a lost look, a look of deep loneliness. To be honest, I felt uncomfortable approaching him, but our senior staff members had instructed us to watch for campers who might feel left out, campers just like this boy. I knew it was my responsibility to talk with him even though I felt it would not be easy.
I walked up to him and said, “Hi, my name is Kevin, and I’m one of the assistants.” In a small, shaky voice he shyly answered, “Hi, I’m Tommy.”
“Welcome to camp, Tommy. How’s it going?”
“Okay, I guess,” he said quietly, not looking at me.
“Do you want to join the activities and meet some new kids, or do you want to just sit here under this tree?” I asked with a smile. He replied unwillingly, “I’m fine here. This camp is not really my thing.” It was clear that camp life was new to him, and I somehow knew it would not be right to push him to join the other campers. Instead, I sat down and talked with him for a while, and then took him to his cabin. I hoped he would make some friends there.
After lunch the next day,(次の日の昼食後) I led the two hundred campers in songs. I looked over the enthusiastic crowd and noticed Tommy, sitting alone, staring at the floor. I realized he was going to require some very special care. That night at our staff meeting, I told everyone about him, and asked them to pay attention to him and spend time with him whenever possible. Tommy became our special project. We always helped him participate in the camp activities, and slowly
he opened up.
Time passed quickly, and Tommy became more active every day. In no time camp was over. As the campers celebrated at a farewell party, I suddenly saw what would be one of the most vivid memories of my life. The boy who had once sat alone under the tree was now dancing. Towards the end of the party, he was dancing as if he owned the dance floor, and talking with people he had not even been able to look at a few weeks earlier. The changes
in Tommy were dramatic. All of the camp staff saw him as the camp’s greatest success.
About five years later, (５年ほどが過ぎて) I got a letter from Tommy. I had not seen him since the night he was all over the dance floor, so it was a complete surprise to get a letter from him. And what the letter said was even more of a surprise.
In the letter, Tommy said, “I appreciate your help very much. On the first day of camp, you came up to me while I was sitting alone. After that, you always gave me special attention and encouraged me to join activities when I hesitated. As a result, I gradually got to know the other campers, and I even became ‘the king of the dance floor’ on the last night. Because of your help that summer, my life changed. I gained so much confidence
that I went back to school as a new person. My grades improved. I became very active and made new friends. Today, I got a letter that said I have been given a scholarship for college next year. I am proud to have gotten it, but I know that if you had not helped me, I would not have. I just wanted to thank you for helping me become a different person.”
I have kept that letter; it is special to me. I read it sometimes to remind myself that we never know how much our actions may affect someone.
１ Kevin did not enjoy his summer job at camp because he did not like
２ At the beginning of camp life, Tommy looked as if he wished he were
３ Campers who did not join the activities were given special attention
by the assistants.
４ Most of the children at the camp enjoyed participating in singing after
５ Kevin asked the other campers to help Tommy because he did not want
６ The camps staff found that Tommy was a failure on the final day of
７ If Kevin had failed to help him, Tommy would not have remained lonely
at the camp.
８ Tommy learned to make friends with others by hiding his true feelings.
「After lunch the next day,」「About five years latter,」
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